Use Online Travel Companies to Attract Family Travel Business

By Matthew Rosenberger Consultant & Publisher, ABC Travel Guides for Kids | August 03, 2010

Psst. . . .I have a secret. If you want to know how to use OTCs to your advantage take a close hard look at your own website. Once you understand that the combination of your website and the customer service you provide cannot be matched by OTCs you will have the tools necessary to implement marketing strategies to reach the lucrative family travel market effectively and actually use the OTCs to your advantage.

It starts with your Website

Interestingly enough it is your own website and marketing that will determine how effectively you can use OTCs to your advantage. Developing an online presence with components of particular interest to families and children is necessary to highlight and distinguish your desire to attract the family travel demographic. While OTCs are committed to presenting a wide range of information to their visitors, they are not hotels and do not provide accommodations, they provide a service. This is an important point that must not be overlooked. A room booked at an OTC website and not your website may not only result in lower room revenues but also negative reviews and damage to your brand if a bad experience develops between the customer and the OTC. And while these elements may be completely out of your control, the consequences could be irreparable. So the challenge becomes creating a website with plenty of information that is relevant to the location and families that you wish to attract. Unique family packages and affordable pricing are the keys. Your goal must be to attract the web surfer directly to your site from the start, but even if the surfer lands at your site from an OTCs site that's okay too as long as you provide them with the information they are seeking and the tools to make a reservation or have their questions answered promptly and efficiently without frustration. The key here is that the hotel is in control and not at the mercy of whether or not the OTC provided satisfactory customer service for your guest.

Customer Service is the Key

The OTCs are not equipped to provide the same level of customer service that your hotel can provide. One of the most common complaints with the OTCs is the inability for the customer to get a "live" person to discuss their reservation or any questions they have. Your hotel has a huge advantage in this area and must highlight its online accessibility, as well accessibility through the more traditional methods. Train your staff to effectively deal with customers who are savvy web surfers and want to secure the best possible rate available for their family. Remember that the family travel guest is not the business travel guest and the key to attract families is to provide great customer service coupled with a strong message, "we want families". Families will look to factors other than price when booking a vacation. It really comes down to creating the best experience for the family with a package that is both entertaining and educational and all-inclusive. I love the idea of having a staff member at the hotel who is trained and equipped specifically to deal with issues of concern to families. You must consider the different needs of your guests and have the appropriate staff "on call".

Pricing Structure

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.